MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Like a well-oiled machine the new robotic tools in the new 100,000 square foot building at SMART Alabama work together in harmony and with the help of more than 600 people, create the interior panels for the new Sonata line.
Helen Bryan leads the team that stamps the front and rear fenders. Bryan couldn't be more pleased.
"It was time for a change," said Bryan.
Bryan's bosses gave the grand tour for local dignitaries after cutting the ceremonial ribbon. This is the company's second expansion in 5 years and this time around in the middle of a fuzzy economy, SMART had the option of laying off people temporarily while trying to figure out where to install the new machines.
In the end though there were no temporary layoffs and SMART added on.
"Fortunately the investors took what we consider the high road in not laying anyone off. We're now prepared if we have other needs or another line with new automobiles.. we have the space," said General Manager Gary Sport.
The company expansion won't mean any new jobs for Crenshaw County and surrounding areas but that could change down the road.
"Right now we'll stay where we are at 620 people but who knows.. Hyundai is on the move," said Sport.
So much on the move Hyundai's overall sales in America jumped 14% in February compared to February 2009.
And to add a little spark whether to expand or not, Luverne Mayor Joe Rex Sport says the city and the county offered SMART a $25,000 a year property tax abatement, meaning SMART will not have to pay property taxes on the new building for 10 years. After all SMART and Hyundai Manufacturing spent $30 million on the new building and machines.
"This was a good move because it means a stable, secure employment," said Mayor Sport.
A secure, stable employment for hundreds of employees, most of whom travel within 30 miles to come to work at SMART.